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Thursday's papers: Metro fun and games, religious education, and unpaid bills for holiday ham

Thursday's newspapers look at the Helsinki metro extension's painstaking progress towards completion, proposals to integrate religious education classes in schools, and a good deed from a motorcycle gang that turned out not to be so good after all.

Metro Rautatieasema Helsinki
Image: Derrick Frilund / Yle

Thursday marks the first day that regular service trains on the Helsinki metro will continue along the new line to the suburbs of Lauttasaari and Espoo. They are not carrying passengers, however, and on Thursday morning there were already reports that the trial runs were causing delays further east on the fork-shaped Helsinki metro network.

Kauppalehti also has metro news, tugging at the heart strings of its business-focused readership by highlighting the plight of companies that have invested in retail space at the stations due to open on the extended line.

At the Iso Omena shopping centre 15 kilometres west of Helsinki city centre, 15 firms have committed to opening up once the metro opens. The line was initially projected to open up in 2014, and these companies have been waiting for over a year since deciding that Iso Omena was their place.

Those businesses complained to KL that they can't plan for the eventual opening as they still have no firm idea when it will happen. Hiring staff and purchasing stock cannot happen overnight, and these companies might struggle to open quickly once the trains do eventually start carrying passengers to the suburban hub.

Losing their religion?

Helsingin Sanomat covers the ongoing debate about religious education in Finnish schools this week, following a story on Wednesday which highlighted declining numbers of Evangelical Lutheran pupils in religion classes and rising numbers in classes designed for other religions.

At present, children are split by religion when it's time for RE, so they focus on their own religion. Children are taught other religions, but classmates who profess a different faith are not present when that discussion takes place.

On Wednesday the paper asked Professor Arto Kallioniemi for his thoughts, and he felt the system was ripe for reform and integration. In Thursday's print edition HS interviews another professor who says the example of other Nordic countries is not too positive. They have already integrated their religion classes, and motivation has dropped, according to Risto Aikonen of Helsinki University.

Suaad Onniselkä of Vesala School says that students from a minority religion might be forced into a defensive position during RE classes, if the other pupils had a negative picture of their faith. Onniselkä also suggests that Islamic schools could become more commonplace, as they have in Sweden where six have been established.

Integrating the classes would be complicated and require legislation, says Satu Elo of the National Agency for Education, and in Norway minority groups have appealed those decisions to the European Court of Human Rights. The current situation is, she says, good for minority groups.

Ham heist for the homeless

Ilta-Sanomat has a story on the apparently generous move by the Cannonball motorcycle gang to hand out Christmas hams to the needy last year. The gang, which is regarded by Finnish law enforcement as an organised crime group, went to the down-at-heel district of Myllypuro in Eastern Helsinki to give out ham in the runup to Christmas.

They said they wanted to 'highlight injustices in society and at the same time show an example to others'.

The problem is, they apparently didn't pay the 16,000 euro bill for the porcine presents. That led to several arrests  and searches of property on Wednesday morning. Police did not say whether or not the members were Cannonball, citing news that the gang had dissolved.

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